Eton Mess Cake- The Clandestine Cake Club A Year Of Cake Bakealong June 2016.

I’m a member of the internationally renowned Clandestine Cake Club and regularly go along to local events in Yorkshire. I’ve been a member for over 3 years now and have made a lot of friends through the club. We take a cake each along to the event and try tiny pieces of each other’s cakes. If we can’t eat much, we take cake home at the end to share with family or work colleagues. Last year I was excited to hear that two of my recipes were to be published in the second Clandestine Cake Club cookbook “A Year Of Cake”. My Welsh Honey and Camomile Bara Brith and Mojito and Coconut Tres Leches Cake recipes were featured in the book, much to my surprise but happiness!

Lots of yummy recipes are featured in the book including ones created by friends.  One such recipe I’ve been desperate to have a go at baking is the one my friend Clare submitted for the book, her take on a British classic pudding in cake form- Eton Mess.  Containing some of my favourite pudding ingredients, such as meringue, strawberries and raspberries mixed with cream. Clare’s cake uses buttercream and jam to sandwich a traditional Victoria sponge together and the Eton Mess part of the cake is it’s photogenic topping. Clare’s recipe also contains another ingredient I love which works perfectly with strawberries and raspberries, a luscious addition of white chocolate chunks. 

Last Saturday afternoon I was at home for once. It’s been a crazy few weeks with every weekend spoken for and work has been chaotic. Baking was my chance to unwind and enjoy a bit of “me time”. I wanted to bake a cake to celebrate my daughter passing her college course. She is now a qualified make up artist and is off to uni to study media makeup and prosthetics in September. We are all very proud of her as she aims to follow her dream. Baking cakes of course is one of my ways of congratulating her! Everyone at home loves pavlova and cake so I knew the Eton Mess cake would be a big hit.

To bake the cake I started off by baking the sponge part. This is done in the usual way that you make a Victoria sponge and it wasn’t long before I was creaming butter and sugar together with my handheld electric mixer. Clare suggests using margarine instead of butter so I used Pure Non Dairy spread which I swear by for baking sponges and cupcakes. It makes them very light. Then in went four eggs one by one which were beaten into the mixture. As I started to add some self raising flour and baking powder I realised I hadn’t got the cake tins out. My cake tin drawers in my kitchen are getting very messy and it takes me ages to sort through them to find the right size tin. I was annoyed that one of the tins had fallen down the back of the unit and got wedged between it and the drawer below. Hubby would say it was my own fault for having too many cake tins! I don’t agree! 

Finally having found the tins I was looking for I got them greased and the mixture in them ready to go in the oven. For once I remembered to set the timer and being as I have a fan oven I wanted to check them after 20-25 minutes. This is when I realise I’m not that good at multi tasking. I put some washing in the machine and another load out on the line. It took me ages to do this as there were loads of pairs of socks and pants to hang out! By the time I’d gone back inside I realised it was time for the cake to come out of the oven. Thankfully got it out just in time!

Now for the decoration part. For the cake topping I needed to make some mini meringues. I’ve only made meringues once or twice before, it’s something I’ve never really done a lot of. I always thought of them as being fiddly and complicated. But Clare’s way of whisking the egg whites until they are stiff then adding caster sugar a teaspoonful at a time was a great help to get the right consistency. I have always tipped in the sugar and wondered why I couldn’t get them to keep the egg whites stiff enough. Also, to add into the meringue mixture you mix in some cornflour and white wine vinegar. I was impressed with my shiny meringue mixture and then got my baking trays ready. I prepared up my piping bag and my large star nozzle. The meringue piped easily onto the trays and there was more than enough to go on the cake as well as having some left over.

I was really impressed with how my meringue stars turned out.
There were lots of leftover meringue stars once I’d decorated the cake.

Now for the cake assembling and decorating time, the bit I was looking forward to the most. I decided to use whipped cream in place of buttercream in the recipe. I had a small pot of cream in the fridge which needed to be used up and I didn’t want to waste it. I whipped up the cream but there wasn’t enough to fill the middle of the cake along with some strawberry  jam. So instead the cream was just spread on the top of the cake with the jam in the middle. Once the cream was spread on I put meringue stars around the edge of the cake and filled the middle with raspberries, strawberries and white chocolate chunks.

View from the top- a heavenly combination of meringues, raspberries, strawberries, cream and white chocolate.
Ta-dah! A classic cake perfect for a summer celebration.
Lush meringue stars.
We didn’t get to eat a piece of the cake until the following day but it was worth the wait!
The cake got eaten over the next couple of days. By Wednesday it had all gone!
Although the cake had been baked on Saturday afternoon for my daughter, we didn’t actually get to enjoy some until the day after. My daughter had been working all day Saturday and went straight to a friends’ house to a party and sleepover. Then on Sunday morning she went straight to work and didn’t get to eat her cake until Sunday tea time. I kept the cake in the fridge due to the cream in it and it kept it fresh. An extremely popular cake all round and one I would love to bake again in the future.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Cupcakes from Primrose Bakery Celebrations.

I wanted to get started on my latest Cooking The Books Challenge so what better excuse was to bake for my school’s Summer Fair?  This month’s book is the third Primrose Bakery Book- “Primrose Bakery Celebrations” and I have had it for several months now and not tried any of the recipes out of it.  After all that’s the reason why I set myself this monthly challenge, to get myself baking from the books I buy and then put on the shelf to look pretty, then forget about them!

I had four different cupcake recipes to try out from Celebrations and I chose flavours which were going to be the easiest to create with ingredients I could easily get in my local supermarket. I didn’t have time to go to my local American candy stockist or even to order online.

First up were the White Chocolate Cupcakes with White Chocolate Icing from the Young Girl’s Party Chapter of the book.  I found these simple to make even though the weather was very hot and sticky on the day I made them.  The chocolate melted really easily and I found that there was not enough white icing to cover the cupcakes using the piping method that I like using when baking cupcakes.

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White chocolate cupcakes with white chocolate icing.
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The cupcakes were finished off with some small chocolate chunks and white chocolate chips. I would have liked to have grated the chocolate but it was melting in my hand as I was holding it to the grater.

Second to be baked were the Cola Cupcakes in the Boy’s Party chapter.  I’d already wanted to bake Cola Cupcakes but never got around to it. I’m surprised as I love fizzy cola bottles but when I went to our local Morrisons all I could find was a pack of large ones.  I didn’t want to buy a multipack because I’d be nibbling the remaining sweets I didn’t need for the cakes!  When I opened the large cola bottle pack I found there were only 8 in there so the remaining 4 cupcakes were sprinkled with popping candy!  In the recipe introduction it says “we found that using a cola concentrate rather than real cola is much more effective” but unfortunately I couldn’t find a bottle of SodaStream cola concentrate so a real can of “full-fat” coke had to do!  The matching cola icing turned out very runny and just would not thicken up.  Instead of swirling it on it was spread on just as it seemed to get warmer and warmer in my kitchen!

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These cola cupcakes were a hit with the children.
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Some of the cola cupcakes were sprinkled with popping candy.

When the cola cupcakes were finished I got on to bake number three.  This time I had a go at Salted Caramel Cupcakes which sounded incredibly rich.  The cupcakes were vanilla flavour but were topped with the rich caramel icing.  They did have a hidden surprise in them though- half a chunk of Galaxy Bar!

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Galaxy chocolate inside the cupcake filling, put more on top after the photo was taken!

 I cheated and instead of making my own caramel I used a jar of salted caramel sauce  bought from a local deli.  The icing for these cupcakes came up a bit thicker and spread on the cakes much easier.  My daughter came into the kitchen as I was making these and asked if she could help.  So she had the fun job of bashing a packet of Werther’s Original caramel sweets with the end of a rolling pin so they could be sprinkled on the top of the cupcakes.

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Salted caramel cupcakes topped with crushed Werther’s Originals!

The final bake for the summer fair was some Eton Mess cupcakes.  I love Eton Mess pudding so I wanted to see if I could recreate it in a cupcake.  I baked them slightly differently to the way they were in the recipe.  The recipe called for making a hole in the baked cupcake and poking in a fresh raspberry and some mascarpone cheese.  I didn’t bother with the mascarpone but put the raspberry into the mixture before it baked. When the cakes cooled I got ready to make the creamy frosting.  I needed to add pureed raspberries to cream to make it pink but I couldn’t believe it, I hadn’t got enough raspberries.  In the end I had to use artificial pink food colouring in the cream.

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Eton Mess Cupcakes.

To finish off the Eton Mess cupcakes I had bought some ready made mini meringues.  I could have made them myself but I just ran out of time.  My daughter enjoyed crushing them for me and then sprinkling them on the cupcakes.

But… disaster struck when I got the cupcakes to the school fair the day after.  I had boxed the cakes and put them in my garage which was the coolest place in the house being as I didn’t have a fridge which worked!  The other cupcakes were fine but the Eton Mess cupcakes were a mess!  The meringue melted into the topping and looked horrible.  So they went in the bin.  I was gutted but I will try and bake another batch on a cooler day in the future so that I can see what they should taste like!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Eton Mess

Now there’s two days until the end of the month and I have two recipes left to try out from Jo Wheatley’s A Passion For Baking as part of my Cooking The Books challenge for March 2014.  Today, being Mothers’ Day I wanted to make a scrummy dessert for our lunch.  I wanted something everyone in our house would eat and something not too heavy and sickly.  All of the desserts in Jo’s first book looked lovely and I want to try them all out eventually.  I chose Eton Mess because it meant I would have to try out making meringues, something which I haven’t really done. Normally I just buy the ready made meringue nests you get in the supermarkets, but Jo’s recipe would not only test my meringue skills but jam making ones too! I would have to make a strawberry jam like sauce, now jam making is something else I really struggle with.  I can never get it to set properly!

Late this morning I was also trying to make an Onion and Cheese Tart  for our lunch with the Eton Mess as the pudding.  The meringue was going to be the time consuming bit as they would be in the oven for an hour baking plus the time they had to stay in there after to cool down.  This was a bit of a pain as I needed the oven to bake the tart in.  I have a double oven range cooker but I only cook roasts in the other one. It was funny as I was trying to sort out the Eton Mess downstairs in my kitchen, my hubby was upstairs moaning at my kids for the mess in their bedrooms.  I give up!

Anyway, I was well out of it down in the kitchen and I got down to it straightaway. Here’s how I got on:

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I had to make the meringues first. Here, I am whisking up three egg whites until they held soft peaks.
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After that, the second stage was to add some caster sugar bit by bit to the egg whites. It took a long time to get the meringues stiff!

The meringues were a bit runnier than I expected but I managed to pipe them onto some baking parchment ready to pop in the oven.  They were baked for about an hour on a low temperature (of 100oC), then were left to cool down in the oven afterwards even when the oven was switched off.  This helped them to crisp up and set a little bit.

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Here are my finished meringues. They don’t look very pretty but then it didn’t matter as I was going to break them up in chunks anyway!

While the meringues were baking I got on with the jam.  Jo’s recipe mentions strawberries but being as strawberries aren’t in season at the moment I used a mixture of strawberries, raspberries and blueberries to make up the same quantity needed for the jam.  I got the pan to the boil first to get the sugar dissolved which was also in the pan, then the heat was turned down and cooked for another 15 to 20 minutes longer to thicken up. Once this had happened I set it aside to cool down until I was ready to assemble the pudding.

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Boiling the jam.
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Whipping double cream and half fat creme fraiche together.

When it was time to get the pudding ready I got out some double cream and half fat creme fraiche.  I’d had to use some of my double cream in the onion and cheese tart so there wasn’t enough to put on the Eton Mess!  You needed 600ml of double cream, I only had 350ml, so I added in a small tub of half fat creme fraiche I had in the fridge.  This was whipped up together with my  electric hand whisk.

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A huge bowlful of whipped cream and creme fraiche.

When it was ready I started to assemble the puddings.  I don’t have any tall sundae glasses so I used some tumblers.  The strawberry jam went in the bottom of the glasses first, with pieces of crushed meringue, cream with jam stirred through, followed by plain cream and finished with more meringue pieces. I’d forgotten to save some fruit to keep for the top of the puddings.

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My finished Eton Messes!
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Showing the crushed homemade meringues on top of the cake.

We all thoroughly enjoyed our puddings and they were very naughty but nice.  My hubby is convinced that Eton Mess has vanilla ice cream in it, I told him he was wrong! To me Eton Mess is like a pavlova but messed up! If he wants ice cream with it I suppose you could have a scoop of it on the side.  I couldn’t help him out there, we didn’t have any ice cream in to give him!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Pistachio and Hazelnut Macaroons using Whynut Pastes.

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The fabulous goody box which Whynut sent me. It contained two types of pistachios, some hazelnut paste and some pistachio paste.
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I had two small tubs of nut paste, here’s the pistachio one. A little goes a long way!

A couple of months back I was excited when WhyNut sent me a goody box through the post inviting me to try out some of their pistachio nuts and nut pastes.  I used the fresh nuts in different ways in to make some Pistachio Cupcakes and in cookies but wanted to try out the nut pastes to delicately flavour some macaroons. Now this was going to be a big challenge for me.  I’ve always wanted to be able to bake macaroons but always thought they looked far too fiddly and complicated.  I tried once but to be fair I rushed them and didn’t follow the recipe properly.  The result was a sloppy mess and since that bungled attempt about 3 years back I’ve never bothered since. But I had the nut pastes to try out so all I could do was try and try again!

So I asked my friends on Twitter and Facebook what recipes they would recommend for baking macaroons.  One suggestion was to try the recipe in Lorraine Pascale‘s first book “Baking Made Easy”  I remembered seeing a macaroon recipe in the book, it was for strawberry and lemon ones.  Being as the title had “made easy” in it, I did hope that would apply to the macaroons too!

A couple of weeks ago we had a get together with my mum’s side of the family. We didn’t get round to exchanging presents at Christmas and I love making foodie presents. I always think macaroons look so pretty in a gift box and I had some brightly coloured ones bought from Lakeland to put them in.  I knew my family would appreciate the macaroons and wouldn’t take the mickey out of me if they looked like they’d been trodden on either!

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Delicate pistachio flavoured macaroons, flavoured with Whynut Pistachio Paste.

So, jobs done and dog walked I started on the macaroons.  First I preheated the oven to 150oC as I was using my fan oven to bake them in and found my silicone macaroon baking sheets.  They hadn’t been used before so I hoped I could use them properly.

I weighed out icing sugar, some ground almonds and some egg whites into a bowl and mixed it so it formed a paste. When that had done I had to heat some water and sugar on the stove.  I was dreading this after my fiasco of burning my thumb when I got hot sugar syrup on me when I tried to make lemon meringue cupcakes a couple of years back.  I tried to be so careful.  I did rely on my sugar thermometer to help me.

After this some more egg white was mixed in a bowl until I got medium stiff peaks, then to this I added the sugar syrup. This was then whisked until the mixture became stiff and shiny.  At this point I added a teaspoonful of the nut paste and a couple of drops of food colouring paste.  For the pistachio macaroons I used a small dab of mint green paste, for the hazelnut ones I had to use a cream coloured food colouring as that was all I had left in the cupboard! After this I then folded the egg white mixture with the almond paste mixture.

Now for the piping bit.  To make it easier to carry I put the silicone macaroon mats on top of a flat baking sheet (the sort I use for cookies) and then started to pipe the macaroons into the bases.  I used one sheet for the pistachio flavour, the other for the hazelnut ones.  To pipe I used a large “Get A Grip” disposable piping bag from Lakeland which I swear by.  The nozzle I used was a straight one and I’m so glad I used a piping bag.  Otherwise it would have gone everywhere.

Before putting the macaroons in the oven I gave each tray a sharp tap on the side of the cooker and also left them for about 1/2 hour to stand before baking them.  Apparently this forms a skin on the macaroons.  Then they went into the oven for about 12-15 minutes, Lorraine suggests leaving the oven door slightly ajar! This was a new one on me but I tried it.

When the time was up and I looked in the oven I was so pleased.  The macaroons actually looked like they should. I was all set to do a big happy dance around the kitchen.  It was a major achievement to me.  What’s more they came off the tray without sticking as well.

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The macaroon shells were filled with some whipped cream flavoured with a little pistachio paste.

After leaving the macaroon shells to cool for a while I got on with the filling.  I whipped up a tub of double cream then halved it into two bowls. To one bowl I added a spoonful of Whynut Pistachio Paste and to the other a spoonful of  their Hazelnut Paste.  These were spread carefully onto the shells with a small pallette knife and left to set.

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Here’s the second attempt at macaroons- this time they were hazelnut flavoured using Whynut Hazelnut Paste.
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The macaroons were filled with whipped cream and hazelnut paste.

Each family member got a gift box of 6 macaroons each and along with their spice jars and granola, the macaroons went down very well. They looked smaller than the ones I’d seen in the shops but everyone loved them.  I was so happy it has inspired me to try out some more flavours in the future.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx